A few months ago, MediaWorks’ news and chat radio shares were in tatters. Now they’re gone and hired the biggest star in TV news as a morning host on an unnamed and rebranded MagicTalk, writes Toby Manhire.
If something like this happens in politics, there’s a good chance Tova O’Brien will chase him down the hall, break the story, and tie it up with a catchy one-liner. This time she is the story, however: New Zealand’s biggest political journalism star is moving from TV to radio, from Three to Mediaworks. The move will thrill Newstalk ZB and RNZ, but is only a relief to politicians who scowl when she approaches: As the host of a new morning radio show, she is unlikely to loses her reputation as charming ruthless.
She certainly won’t lose her contact book, which has produced a plethora of stories since taking over from Patrick Gower as Newshub’s political editor in 2018 upon her return from the UK. Most of the time, she seemed to have a much better grip on the mood of the national caucus, for example, than anyone leading the party at the time.
O’Brien – who is most definitely an evil agent of the right and a perverse agent of the left, depending on which partisan fanatic you are listening to – has smashed more stories in the past three years and a little than most. between us could hope in a career. In keeping with the approach of Newshub’s predecessors, there has been a tabloid thrill and scoops galore, but they have only rarely spilled over into sensationalism. Among the recent triumphs: the next day’s interview with Jami-Lee Ross that made waves around the world and his forfeit on the horrific first day of national leader Todd Muller, which this website correctly referred to as “l ‘one of the most exhilarating and confronting political stories “. to be broadcast on national television â.
For someone who can be so professionally wild, she is incredibly well-liked: widely loved in the press gallery, adored by those who work directly with her. Even the politicians who left a pile of smoldering ashes after a 6pm O’Brien special like her. Not all of them, notice.
For Discovery, which pulled broadcast operations from MediaWorks just over a year ago but has kept most of the news and updates intact as other departments begin to be overseen from Australia, the question will be who does Tova give the beret to? The dynamism and at times unpredictability of the last three political writers, from Garner to Gower to O’Brien, is a big part of the 6pm call on Three. Jenna Lynch has grown steadily over the past two years. She will be in the race. Lloyd Burr, who followed in Tovian’s footsteps from the press gallery to the European correspondent, would be a decent shout, but he recently took up a post on the radio, on Magic Talk. How about trying to poach rivals? If I were at TVNZ, I would immediately offer Maiki Sherman a raise.
At MediaWorks, meanwhile, the traffic jams will fly away. Just a few months ago, the place looked like the shattered remains of a saloon fight. Substitute host John Banks has been convicted of wrongdoing. Sean Plunket, a brilliant animator turned fastidious attention seeker, has vanished into obsolescence. Peter Williams (good at cricket, less good at plots) is also missing. Not to mention the dazzling report of years of gutter culture and misconduct at MediaWorks a few months ago. Cam Wallace, who arrived from Air New Zealand to MediaWorks earlier this year as he began his new life as a radio and outdoor advertising company without the glamor and burden of television, had he bit more that he couldn’t chew?
The signing by Wallace of Dallas Gurney, former editor-in-chief of Newstalk ZB, was the first clear sign of a turnaround. Lloyd Burr came on board and the time was called on the deal with Discovery which marked the end of the former stable mate’s AM Show news and pipeline. Meanwhile, MediaWorks staff members received a brief vision statement last week, outlining the mission “to be New Zealand’s number one media choice for our employees, customers and audiences” . The values ââwere described as âWe don’t do boringâ, âLove your tribeâ and Bring our best self â, and the goal asâ To color and connect our communities â. It was remarkable, according to a staff member, not so much for the words themselves as for seeking to articulate a new kaupapa.
For Wallace and Gurney, the poaching of O’Brien is a masterstroke, a literal turning point. It makes it very clear that they don’t just run a fringe radio station. As they attempt to build a newsroom from scratch, O’Brien’s appointment is a powerful signal that they are not getting worked up. His very presence will attract other talents.
There are very few people who could give NZME and ZB’s crown jewel, The Mike Hosking Breakfast, a run for their money. Hosking dominates the competition in trade talks and is rather neck-and-neck with RNZ’s flagship Morning Report. (Fun fact: O’Brien’s mom previously worked as a producer for Hosking.) The new MediaWorks show presents a unique challenge to ZB, with its host bringing information, contacts galore, and business sensibilities. And while it’s not always easy to get on the TV news, it can be a lot of fun. A decent slice of Morning Report listeners, including those whose listening is in part due to disgust at Hosking’s overt political leanings, may be up for grabs. The Tova Show begins in the new year.
Subscribe to Rec Room, a weekly newsletter bringing the latest videos, podcasts, and other recommendations from The Spinoff straight to your inbox.